My Journey

By: Natalie Lamb

Since it is the New Year, I have been reflecting on what the last year has taught me and where I see my New Year heading.  It is always a gamble to share your story with others because you never know how it will be received and the misinterpretations that will come from it.  But at this place in my life, I feel like my story is to be used to touch someone else.  It’s Your Choice, LLC has been in existence going on our 3rd year.  And the starting of this business has been a catalyst to my “newness”.   So how did this all begin?  To answer that, I must go back a few years to the beginning of the end.  Many of you have heard me speak about how devastating it was for me to lose my mother in 2002.  It has been one of my most life-defining moments.  This horrific event caused me to make a life decision.  I asked myself,  “Do I stay with a God that would willing choose to cause me this kind of pain or do I walk away and find a different way of living?”   At the time I didn’t think I had any faith but looking back now I see that I had a mustard seed.  I reached out to God and asked Him to show me why and help me make sense of this tragedy.  I chided Him for being cruel.  I fussed at Him for making a decision that had to be wrong.  I sarcastically asked Him to show me how he would be my mother now that I was motherless?  I said how He could hold me the way she did, or provide me her scent or her encouraging words?  I said, “Show me how you can accomplish this being a God in heaven whom I cannot touch nor feel.”

I knew I had to get it together because I had a daughter and husband I had to be there for.  I never wanted to hear my daughter say I was not there for her and my excuse was that my mother died and I just couldn’t cope.  I know about the grieving process.  I knew about the steps from an academic position but not from a personal one.  So I did what I am good at.  I began to investigate the grieving process and I fully emerged myself in making sure I completed it and I was going to be okay.  The first year you are scrambling to find normalcy.  You just want to stop hurting and you are trying not to show cracks.  Year two, it hits you hard because the reality that this has really happened sets in.  The years after that you are hopefully working on acceptance and your “new normal.”  I made a decision early on that I would not try to fill the hole that was left from my mother’s death.  I decided that I would just have a hole and my job was to create a healthy life with it.  For me, this helped me move from extreme sadness to seeing hope again.

Now when you add in family dynamics and dysfunctions, it can all go even crazier.  Having lived most of my life in a little “fish bowl” due to being a pastor’s kid and having to deal with people always feeling like they know you and your story, it makes the grieving process even harder.  The people want (or even need) you to be okay, so they can have some permission to move on.  Being a person who has difficulty fitting into the status quo, I was unable to hide where I was.  I was lost and looking for direction.  I could not hide that I was lost and for many, this created discomfort for them.  Unwilling to sacrifice my truth for others’ comfort, I pulled away for a while from the 1-2-3 of church going.  Some church folks want you to bounce back quickly and not show real signs of trauma and pain.  They want the clichés of “she is in a better place” and the quotation of scriptures that one should “bless the lord at all times.”  What many do not realize is that this brings not an ounce of comfort to those who are in pain.  In reality, it makes you want to step further from God.  What people need when they are in pain is someone who is willing to be in pain with them, not stand on the sidelines and throw you a tissue.

I knew that if I was going to stay with God, I had to find a new way.  I wanted something deeper and more profound.  I started with having Sunday night service in my bedroom, once I put my daughter to bed.  I was not sure what I was looking for but I knew that I needed God in the most personal way.  I had no plan or method but my hurting heart wanted (needed) to be healed.  I’d pray a lot, but not the way I was taught.  It was just me being me and pouring my heart out to God.  I started reading some but didn’t find much comfort there.  One day I was looking through the paper and saw this book called Relational Masks by Russell Willingham.  This book was my starting point.  When I first read it, I threw it down in disgust.  I was so offended that someone would dare write such things.  But the book kept calling me and I had to finish it.  Needless to say, the truth hurts but the truth also heals.  For the first time I was able to admit I didn’t trust God, nor did I believe the entire Bible.  Shut my mouth!!  A good church girl like me having to admit such a thing!!  But the more comfortable I was with this truth and confession to God the more God had to work with.

Since I had a platform at my dad’s church where I taught and counseled since 1996, I decided to teach it there and what it did for me, it began to do for others.  We were finally having real discussions about real things and people were being helped and transformed.  With each class I taught, a layer of “me” was being chiseled off.  I was slowly becoming more authentic and courageous.  At the time I was unaware of the devil’s devices; I didn’t realize that me gaining ground with God and wanting to share it with others would be attacked.  Nevertheless, I was pumped and excited and ready to expand my world.

Taking a step, I decided to get certified to be a Mediator and Family Mediator.  The course was in San Diego and on my way back home in traffic, It’s Your Choice was birthed.  I was so pumped and ready to go out on a limb and create a business that would help educate and heal people.  Knowing that I had a strong base at my dad’s church I began to promote my business.  To my SURPRISE it was received from some with scrutiny and divisiveness.  My first classes and retreats were well attended but as chatter grew and speculations multiplied, it became a “me” against “them” thing.  Knowing that my intentions have always been pure, I proceeded forward.  I always thought that the church and my business would have a beautiful relationship together.  But things sometimes do not turn out the way you hope.

I never planned to have spiritual retreats as a part of my business but God saw different.  I have always stayed in my lane of psychology with a spiritual perspective.  When I saw the move of God at the last Women’s retreat I did at my dad’s church, I was comfortable with the fact that I could lead people into a deeper connection with God.  While listening to Marvin Sapp’s Thirsty, the desire and push came for my husband and I to conduct a Thirsty Retreat solely for the purpose of people to connect or reconnect with God.  Our only agenda was to present people with an opportunity to worship.  God moved so heavily that we could not stop, even though many of our participants stop coming.  I shall not at this time speculate on the reasons why.  But I do know that with each retreat, God revealed Himself to me and those who attended.  And as you meet God one on one, you willingly remove layers of falsity and the things that are not pleasing.  I was hooked on knowing God but I knew I had to be the pursuer.  The scripture which says, “If you seek me you will find me” kept ringing in my soul.

My search was on.  I had no idea where He would lead me but I was following wherever the path would lead.   I was encased in a tomb and God needed to chip away the parts of me that He never intended for me to have.  With life’s ups and downs I had turned into an image that was not reflecting Him.  It wasn’t about the outward behavioral sins that we often harp on.  It was the deep stuff that no one sees but Him and me.  It was the secret stuff that we don’t like to talk about or expose.  Through the Thirsty Retreats and classes, I stayed on the operating table.  Every time I asked to get up, He instructed me to stay because more work needed to be done.  I knew that these retreats were causing a deeper rupture with my dad and the church folks, but I could not risk my personal spiritual growth for others’ comfort.  I knew this path was leading me to solitude, I just didn’t know to what extent and for how long.

I tried to do church as usual, but it didn’t satisfy my yearning.  A part of it was that which was once my home had changed.  It was no longer mine.  My mother’s legacy had been forgotten and it became too painful to watch.  But God had a plan for healing and purpose for me.  My time alone with God was becoming an experience.  He was becoming everything he promised He could be.  The months of requests after my mother died of me asking Him to show Himself to me, He was doing it and it was more than I could have imagined.  There was no way I was giving this up.  Well, message one has turned into 60 messages between my husband and I.  Who knew God could be this real??!!  WOW!!!

So I get pregnant and it was sickness from about week two until delivery.  Having already had two miscarriages, I was a bit nervous about this pregnancy.  I didn’t fully share with everyone until I was past my first trimester.  But even with being sick most of the time, I had to keep the Thirsty Experience going.  Out of breath and nauseous, God still used us and kept us close to Him.  Blessedly, my baby girl was born healthy and strong.   It has been about two years since I have attended a regular church service.  I never thought I would be a non-church goer.  It was quite odd at first because I was raised with the idea that your church attendance was evidence of your relationship or commitment to God.  I guess I was a good candidate for God to choose to take a path off the beaten path.  I don’t mind being different and unique.  In no way am I against church.  I think regular church attendance is a wonderful thing.  Nor do I believe that I will never go back to church again, I am just letting God lead me at this present time.  I have learned that not until you have walked in someone’s shoes should you judge them.  Everyone has a right to their opinion, but your opinion does not make it truth.

What this time with God has taught me is that no one can put God into a box and hand it to you and say “this is how you have to experience God.”  God is massive and multifaceted and allowed to move and change up the pace of things for any one of His children.  He has taught me His incredible love!!  He has taught me that I matter to Him and He wants me!  He has taught me that you will not always get people’s approval but His approval has to be bigger than any man’s approval.  He tested me to see if I would stay with Him even though I had no clue where we were going.  But I can say that old things have passed away and I am NEW!!  2010 has been my year of resolve.  I have made definite decisions that I can never go back on.  Every part of me has been touched by God.  I am a new vessel.  Of course I have more work to do and more stuff to clean out but that’s exciting because I know He is with me every step of the way.  I am no longer afraid to live.  I am no longer afraid that hell is waiting for me.  I am assured that God has saved me and He has not lost one.  I am committed to encourage everyone to experience God and find their path.  I don’t expect their journey to look like mine.  It shouldn’t - it can’t.  Mine was tailor-made for ME!!  Your journey will be tailor-made for you.  When you find God you will find yourself.

So now its 2011 and life looks grand.  I’m walking in full faith.   I’m not delusional, believing that I am beyond issues and problems, but I am confident that God will walk with me and carry me when I can no longer walk.  I like the new me.  It’s Your Choice will continue to teach, share and encourage others.  I have found my purpose and my aim is to use every talent God has given me, so that when we meet I have nothing left because I have used it all up.